Why Do Cats Play with Water? The Splashing Paradox


Have you ever caught your cat playing in the water, batting at dripping faucets or pawing at their water bowl, and wondered why? Aren’t cats supposed to hate water? Let’s unravel this splashing paradox.

The Natural Instinct

Hunting Behavior

Cats are natural predators, and their instincts tell them to interact with moving objects, including water.

Fishing Instinct

Some theories suggest that playing with water mimics the actions of fishing, a skill wild ancestors might have used.


Cats are naturally inquisitive creatures and anything that moves or changes shape will catch their attention—including water.

The Sensory Experience


For some cats, the feeling of water against their paw pads may be fascinating.

The Feeling of Water

The sensation could offer a form of sensory enrichment, stimulating their nerves and brain.


Cats may prefer the taste of fresh, moving water as opposed to stagnant water in a bowl.

Freshness of Water

This can be traced back to their natural instinct to avoid still water, which could be contaminated.


The scent of fresh, running water can also be enticing to a cat’s sensitive nose.

The Scent of Freshness

Cats are sensitive to scents and may find the smell of running water to be refreshing.

Age and Water Play


Young felines are naturally more curious and may play with water as part of their exploratory behavior.

Exploratory Behavior

They are learning about their environment and experimenting with different textures, including water.

Adult Cats

For adults, playing with water could be a way to cool down or simply to relax.

Human Influence

Water Bowls

If the water bowl is too full, cats might bat at it to avoid submerging their whiskers, which could look like playing.


Cats sometimes play in the spilled water for fun or out of curiosity.


Some cats have learned to enjoy water through positive experiences during bath time.

Risks and Precautions

Wetting the Fur

Constant exposure to water could lead to skin problems.

Ingesting Soap

If playing near soapy water, there’s a risk of ingestion, which is harmful.

Ways to Entertain a Water Lover

Water Toys

Interactive toys that incorporate water can be a safe way to let cats play.

Water Games

Shallow pools or dripping faucets can provide hours of fun.


Cats’ relationship with water is complex, driven by instinct, sensory fascination, and even their stage of life. While not all cats will revel in a good splash, understanding why some do can help deepen your bond with your furry friend.


  1. Why does my cat spill its water bowl?
    • Your cat might be trying to adjust the water level, or it could just be playful behavior.
  2. Is it harmful for cats to play with water?
    • Generally not, but watch for risks like skin issues or the ingestion of soap.
  3. How can I make bath time enjoyable for my cat?
    • Use warm water and positive reinforcement to create a pleasant experience.
  4. What kind of water toys are safe for cats?
    • Look for toys specifically designed for pets and always supervise playtime.
  5. Do older cats play with water?
    • Less frequently, but some adult cats do enjoy water play for relaxation.

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